Hugh Jackman's having a rather good year. Logan — his final portrayal as Wolverine after nearly two decades with the character — is one of the most well-received superhero films of all time, and he's about to roll out The Greatest Showman, a massive spectacle about the life of P.T. Barnum.
To promote the film, Jackman landed the cover story in this week's issue of Variety. It's a wide-ranging profile spanning much of his career, so of course Wolverine is going to come up. At times, it seemed like Jackman would be playing the character (and working out relentlessly to do so) until he collapsed, but one of the longest-serving superhero actors of all time finally retracted his claws with Logan. The film was a tremendous departure from the rest of the X-Men movie universe (Deadpool is also R-rated, but it's a comedy), rendering a wounded, soulful Wolverine on a quest for a little redemption in a ruined world. For Jackman, it was a chance to say goodbye in a very personal way, and his emotional impression of the film was that, after nearly 20 years, he finally nailed the character.
“I wish I’d started playing him like that 17 years ago,” Jackman said. “So there’s some sense of missed opportunity, but when I saw Logan, I sat there and I did have tears in my eyes. The main feeling I had was: 'There, that’s the character. I feel like I’ve done it now.' And I was calm and at peace, but I’m going to miss that guy.”
Jackman is a massive movie star, and has been for a very long time. There's something very encouraging about knowing that he just kept digging away at the character across nine films until he felt he finally got it right. There's a spirit of determination there that's actually rather moving.
Speaking of iconic roles, Jackman also talked about the ones he didn't take, namely Agent 007 himself, James Bond. As Pierce Brosnan was preparing to depart the role, executives approached Jackman as a potential replacement. Jackman, after seeing years of increasingly goofy Bond flicks, was hesitant.
“I was about to do X-Men 2 and a call came from my agent asking if I’d be interested in Bond,” he said. “I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy, and I felt like they needed to become grittier and real. And the response was: ‘Oh, you don’t get a say. You just have to sign on.’ I was also worried that between Bond and X-Men, I’d never have time to do different things.”
Ironically, the Bond films did become grittier and real with the release of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as the iconic superspy. Jackman was determined to keep variety in his career, though, and two megafranchises would have likely prevented that.
For more from Jackman, including how his Wolverine audition came about (he thought he'd botched it) and his passion for The Greatest Showman, head over to Variety.